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"All He Asks of Us is to Be Obedient." (#GrowDeep)
by Julie Cramer
Posted on Tuesday, August 08, 2017
Orphan Outreach is celebrating a decade of care for orphans and vulnerable children, and we're inviting our US-based staff to share their thoughts about the ministry and its mission - and we're giving a sneak peek into their lives and loves. Katherine Cheng's commitment to orphan care began long before we opened our doors, and her passion for the marginalized is as strong in the United States as it is in India or Guatemala. Get to know her today! 


“They came out with this huge cake,” Katherine Cheng says of turning 17. “It was embarrassing, but memorable.” That year, Katherine had traveled to China on a mission trip with the person who would become her future boss, Mike Douris. As a Chinese American, Katherine wanted to visit the country of her roots.

“That trip was instrumental in the Lord changing my heart,” the Houston native says. She returned for two more trips, each time leaving with a growing desire to serve orphans. The change surprised her. For as long as she could remember, Katherine had wanted to be a teacher. “When I was growing up, I would play teacher a lot ... by myself! My dad was a teacher for part of his career, and he would bring home the overhead projector and pages, and I would write on them. I would write my classmates’ names on my books and grade them, with notes like, ‘Good job!’ on the cover. Maybe that’s where my love of stationery and office supplies comes from. Now my niece and nephew look through my books and ask me who those people are.”


No doubt with freshly sharpened pencils and crisp notebooks in tow, Katherine set off to earn her undergraduate degree in child and family studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Then, Waco was the poorest town in the state, and she found herself bearing witness to poverty as a volunteer with Mission Waco and through an apartment outreach program of her church. Katherine went on to pursue a master’s degree in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington. In October 2007, a few months after Orphan Outreach opened, she joined the team—and her first mission trip leader, Mike Douris—in the missions department part-time. After graduation, she moved into the full-time seat of director of missions.

Full circle

Recently back from leading a youth group from Nashville, Tennessee to Guatemala, Katherine reflected on just how far she’s come since blowing out those candles as a high-schooler visiting China for the first time.

“A lot of the team members were the age I was when I went on my first mission trip. I got to reflect on the past 15 years and see what God has done. I’ve learned that things aren’t black and white. I was like that when I started with Orphan Outreach, but I’ve learned that you can’t put God in a box. I know there’s some controversy about short-term mission trips, but the Lord can use those opportunities to completely change lives. It can set youth up for transformation and change their hearts to serve others, something they may not have experienced if they had not gone.”

As the summer comes to an end, Katherine will begin a new chapter of the story God began writing in her heart as a 17-year-old.

With steady growth in ministry partnerships over the past decade, Orphan Outreach has named Katherine the Director of Central American Programs. Amy Norton provides the same oversight for programs in India, Kenya, and Eastern Europe. Additionally, regional directors now provide field expertise in Central America and Eastern Europe. For Katherine, the changes reflect the soul of the ministry. “What I love about Orphan Outreach is the heart of our staff. For them, it’s not just a job. It’s truly their heart’s desire for these kids to be known and in relationship with not only us, but with their church. One of our hallmarks is that we know these children by name,” she says. “We want to ensure that what we are doing is impacting each individual child—and that will look different from child to child.”

His name is Makai 

For Katherine, her trips to the Gan Sabra HIV home in India have been some of the most profound, partly because she has been able to travel with some of her dearest friends and share the realities of her heart’s work, and partly because of children such as Makai*.

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“There was one boy on my last trip—he has a burn on his arm—who has been at the home for a few years now. Somehow, when he was younger, he was sitting by the fire with his dad and hot oil spilled over him, completely burning his face and half his body. One of his arms is bent and he can’t use it to its fullest,” she says. “But he was the sweetest boy. When we would come to the home and get out of the Jeep, he would grab my hand and put it to his cheek. The gesture was the sweetest thing. I tried to hold back tears … I just had a connection with him. His name is Makai, and he’s almost 7 now. He can be feisty, but he sings his heart out. He’s just one of many kids. Their joy and resiliency are amazing. They truly feel like family.”

Whether singing alongside Makai, or baking “as the sous chef” with her 12-year-old niece, Katherine relishes the small moments. She recently began working with Friendship Partners to offer these moments of belonging to international students—some of the most isolated students living in the United States.

“Apparently 9 out of 10 international students never set foot in an American household and they come with very little; they don’t know anyone; and their English is minimal,” Katherine says. “Developing a friendship with an international student is encouraging on both ends. Dallas has a large population of refugees and internationals. I want Orphan Outreach teams to be missional wherever we are. My vision for Orphan Outreach in the next 10 years is that we would be used as a catalyst to help children find healing and restoration through a relationship with Christ and grow deeper in their relationships with Him. I also want to see discipleship be a greater part of what we do around the world in partnership with the local church.”

Next year, Katherine will take a break and vacation in Thailand with a cousin who lives there and some close friends. “I’m always looking for opportunities to travel,” she says. And from the evidence of her work, she is always looking for opportunities to serve. “It’s not about me or what good I can do, but about reflecting God’s love. I can’t do this on my own. I need to tap into the source of the God of justice because this is very much God’s battle. His heart aches for the injustices of this world and for each individual child’s heart. Caring for orphans is something anyone can do, but it will look different for each person. God has

uniquely gifted each person to do something; all he asks of us is to be obedient.” 

*For protection, the name has been changed.

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